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Joe's Neighborhood

During the heat of an afternoon

10/10/2012

It is probably best not to reveal too much of our inner workings, don’t you think? If people saw how weird we truly are, I suspect our neighbors’ fences and hedgerows would all get a little higher. As they should. And, frankly, it’s just hard to argue why you shouldn’t get electric shock and be placed in lock down. Who better knows than you, right?                

On the other hand, isn’t it a little bit weeny to hide your insides? False fronts are certainly complicated, distracting and safe, but aren’t you bored stiff? What about YOU? Sure, your few friends will disown you, your mom will mention that you’re not her child and when you go to the grocery store they will assign a clerk to follow you around while you do your shopping. Do we care? Apparently so.                

However, there are some activities that allow the public a window into our heads against all our desires. Yes, I’m speaking about dancing. Certainly, it seems simple enough. In fact, the novice might mistakenly believe that you could count your way around the waltz in Germanic precision and keep the real you out of the picture. Or that alcohol-fueled gyrations at a wedding would be considered the actions of an inner demon still lingering after the exorcism. Sorry. Good try. Dancing shows your soul. It just does.               

Which gets us to Josh. During the heat of an August afternoon, Josh can be seen watering the plants in the Des Moines downtown area between Grand and Locust streets. You’ve driven past him a thousand times. See, there he is:                

But I want you to look closely.                

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Josh is wired up. He’s wired for sound. As he waters our plants, he’s listening to music. Dance music. And he’s dancing. When he first started working for the City, he was worried what people would think. He played his music and quietly watered the plants. But as the hot summer progressed, caution went out the window.                

“I tried to be reserved, but I was just bound up,” Josh told me.

So, he dances. His partner is the hose. He’ll boogie back and forth on the edge of the sidewalk. Two-stepping and dipping. Then he’ll take a flourish off the edge of the curb with a twirl of his partner. Shoulder dip to the right. Then back up on the curb with a chest thrust and a shuffle step. Really.                

With a tall basketball player’s body, long tied-back hair, tattooed arms and a reflective vest, you still barely see him as you speed down Grand Avenue to escape work. For Josh, work is a little different:              

“Music is my life work; music makes me move.”                

And off he goes without a goodbye, two-stepping west on Grand Avenue, his partner held gently in his arms. CV

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www.joesneighborhood.com

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